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Saturday, October 10, 2009


On my desk there is a small round jar half full of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and a few gold nuggets that were panned from a creek bottom in northern California. The gem stones are for the most part cut and polished, ready for the jeweler’s craft. There are a few unpolished sapphires -- for variety, I suppose. They look like pebbles.

This little accumulation has been in my possession for several years. I have no interest in becoming a jeweler. I don’t wear jewelry of any kind. Yet, as soon as some money comes in, I’ll add to it again. There are probably a thousand environmental reasons for discontinuing my acquisitions. Still, just having them here cheers me up somehow. I'll have to find out the mining equivalent of carbon offsets.

I love to spread them out and study the way the light plays in them. Somewhere around I have loupe to study them closely. But mostly, I like to look at them and run my hand over them, feel them against my palm.

Today I spread them out before starting to write. For days – weeks, actually -- I’ve been battling with my psyche to create a lyric for the first song for my next show. It simply is not yet time to write it. I realized that while poring over my jewels today.

This realization brought me face to face with the question of the purpose of this blog? To have something to write every day is too simple and answer. Is it serving the purpose of a diary? Well, no, for while diaries are meant to be read eventually, a blog is potentially exposed to readers immediately. Are these posts jewels of wisdom? Absolutely not. So what’s the point?

Songs are, to my mind, the jewels of writing. A gem needn’t be flawless to get your attention. Sparkle and color is enough. Likewise, a song is not a great poem. It is the coming together of words and melody, or words and a beat. Cutting and polishing are inevitably part of both the songwriter’s and the jewelers work. And then there’s the issue of monetary value. William Saroyan once said that a hit song he wrote with his cousin – Come on-a My House – earned him more money than any of his plays or books.

Yet money is seldom a determining factor in what I decide to write. I’d love to have a hit. I like money as much as the next person. I love having it in my pocket -- as my tune Thick Stack of Hundred Dollar Bills should make clear. But I also know that hits, musical or otherwise, are the result of a combination of factors – craft, timing, cultural tastes, and luck. Belief is also a huge element.

The person who writes something has to believe it deserves an audience. Then a producer or publisher has to believe in it. Then the public has to believe the book or play or movie is worth spending money to see or read. Not everything that finds an audience is a huge hit, of course. And some hits don’t endure through time.

In that way, the efforts of writers and artists, even if they are huge successes, are quite different from gems. An emerald’s luster and color don’t fade due to changes in language and taste. Plays, books and songs do.
I just took a loaf of bread out of the oven. It’s been rising and baking as I wrote today. It’s not a particular jewel of the baker’s art, though home baked bread is always appreciated. It won’t last long but it will be a minor hit at dinner this evening.

Is there a point to this blogging? Does there have to be?

I’m taking tomorrow off.

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